Helping America's Most Vulnerable Is Good for Business Too

Nov 19, 2010

By Elizabeth Lower-Basch

In spite of widespread public support, yesterday the House of Representatives failed to pass a bill extending federal unemployment insurance benefits for three more months. Considering that the Department of Labor and the Congressional Budget Office have shown that unemployment insurance has helped rebuild the staggering economy, it's a sad reminder of how partisanship gets in the way of sound policy.

Congress is likely to try again to extend these benefits - but in the meantime, two million Americans will probably lose this critical lifeline, as the current program runs out on November 30. Tens of thousands more were hurt when Congress failed to extend the TANF Emergency Fund earlier this year.

Congress must act to extend unemployment insurance benefits and the TANF Emergency Fund.  These funds were responsible for keeping millions from falling into poverty last year, including 1 million children. Extending tax cuts to the wealthiest two percent of Americans while letting our nation's most vulnerable drown is irresponsible and plain bad policy.  It hurts not only millions of families, but also business.

For every dollar spent to fund unemployment insurance, $2 is created in the economy. The National Employment Law Project reports that the still struggling retail sector, which counts on the holiday season for over 20 percent of sales, will take a major blow as many will have to forgo children's holiday gifts for food.

As the wealthiest among us sit down to a Thanksgiving feast next week, many low-income families will be wondering how they will support their families in the upcoming months. Let's hope this sobering fact is on the minds of Congress when they come back from their Thanksgiving holiday.

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